Deadline: 2016-01-25
Value of Scholarship: Loughborough
Level Of Study: PhD

PhD Studentship – Using plant functional and community traits to predict the sensitivity of coastal dune wetlands to climate change and eutrophication

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by the NERC CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership to start in October 2016. The project will be based in the Department of Geography at Loughborough University and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Bangor.

Project Highlights:

  • Measuring sand dune wetland vegetation responses to past environmental change and modelling impacts of future change.
  • Working with key conservation organisations at internationally important wildlife sites around the UK.
  • Development of novel bioindicators for condition of sand dune wetlands.

Sand dune wetlands are highly biodiverse and support many rare UK plant, invertebrate and vertebrate species. They are, however, severely threatened by human activities, in particular climate change and eutrophication. There is, therefore, a pressing need to understand better their response to global environmental change. Plant functional traits (PFTs, e.g. leaf size, root length, growth form, plant height, nutrient uptake strategy) provide potentially powerful method for understanding, predicting and monitoring vegetation responses to environmental change. This is because PFTs are shared across species, relate directly to how plants – and so ecosystems – function, and can be relatively easily measured.

The student will work on some of the most valuable sand dune ecosystems in Europe with government, NGO and private sector stakeholders to produce high quality science that will have real, applied impact beyond academia. They will use analysis of PFTs to determine how dune wetland plant communities are affected by two key environmental change drivers: climate change and eutrophication. The student will visit sand dune sites around the UK to undertake vegetation, hydrology, water chemistry and topographic surveys. PFTs will then be combined with other plant community metrics to develop a set of easily measured indicators of the condition of dune wetland plant communities. They will then test the application of these new bioindicators to well-characterised sites.

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The studentship is for 3.5 years and is intended to start in October 2016. The studentship provides a tax free stipend of £14,057 per annum (current rate) for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and a research training support grant of £8,000.  Please note that due to restrictions imposed by the funder only students with a UK/EU fee status will be considered for this position.

Students will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) in Geography, Ecology or Environmental Science.  A Master’s degree and/or experience in a related area associated with the research will be an advantage.

General information about the Department of Geography can be found here and more information about the project and CENTA can be found here. For informal enquiries about the project, please contact Dr. Jonathan Millett (

To apply:

  1. Complete a CENTA studentship application form in Word format, and then
  2. Complete the online application using the following link: During the online application process, upload the CENTA application form as a supporting document.

The closing date for applications is 25 January 2016
Interviews will take place in the week commencing 15 February 2016

Please quote CENTA-JM when completing your online application

Apply Now

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